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tv   Melissa Harris- Perry  MSNBC  April 26, 2014 7:00am-9:01am PDT

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some eye problems. tell your doctor if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure before taking breo. ask your doctor about b-r-e-o for copd. first prescription free at mybreo.com this morning, my question, cliven bundy, you know we can hear you, right? plus the book making andrew sullivan so upset. the story that wasn't included and the political risk president obama is taking by reform a broken system. plus why students have the entire world of sports watching. good morning. i'm jonathan capehart in for melissa harris-perry. nerdland, the votes are in.
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76 northwestern university football players were eligible to cast a secret ballot in one of the more publicized union votes in recent history. and that vote was held early friday morning. we don't know the results yet and we won't be getting any exit polling. not only were reporters not allowed anywhere near the vote, literally kept a certain distance away from the campus building where the players voted, but as the "chicago tribune" reported, we may not know for months what the players decided. why not? northwestern, the university, not the football team, filed an appeal with the national labor relations board on april 9th to overturn the march decision by a regional director that made scholarship athletes on the team employees in the eyes of the law. on thursday, the nlrb agreed to hear out the university's concerns and the balance will be impounded until the nlrb rules on the appeal. that's why regardless of how the players voted, we're not calling it, for a good long while, likely. still, the university held a presser yesterday after the vote to say this.
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>> northwestern has been a leader in a lot of the things that the union has raised. extended medical benefits for players, four-year scholarships. these are things that northwestern university already does. we're a leader. our students are leaders, and we intend to continue to be leaders. >> its appeal to the nlrb was just the start of the university's fierce and controversial opposition to the idea that their football players may form a union. that idea was born, you could say, with three little letters, apu standing for all players united. those letters were worn by a number of college football players during games last september 21st. while the message may have been written on a wristband, it was heard loud and clear. there were college players who wanted a change in how the ncaa does business off of their sweat and hard work. among those wearing apu that day was cane colter, the northwestern wildcats quarterback and co-captain.
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last season he would go on to spend the last half of his season year fighting for that cause. in january, he led a group of players who submitted to the national labor relations board signed union cards and a petition to be represented by a labor union. the questions over whether student athletes were being mistreated or even exploited particularly in big money sports like football and basketball was no longer something being discussed in the zeitgeist, it was very real action. one week ago today, the work of the players association bore fruit when the chicago branch of the nlrb ruled that the scholarship athletes on northwestern's football team qualify not to get paid but for employee protection and the ability to hold a vote on whether to be represented by capa. the university began to push back almost immediately.
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the schools anti-union talking points were in a document cbs obtained. here's a sample response to an unnamed player expressing concern. northwestern agrees with you that you men are students, not employee, and that's why the university is appealing the decision. that process has to go forward, but you can still express your desire to get back to being students by voting no. head coach pat fitzgerald, who makes $2.2 million a year, yes, he makes $2.2 million for coaching unpaid athletes added after an april 5th practice that he hopes the players vote no. but he didn't stop with that. he was -- here's part of what "the new york times" termed a blitz to defeat an effort to unionize. according to that report, fitzgerald wrote this to his team in an e-mail. understanding that my voting to have a union, you would be transferring your trust from those you know, me, your coaches and the administrators here, to
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what you don't know, a third party who may or may not have the team's best interests in mind. last week on this show, former ncaa champion basketball player swin cash, also a member of the wnba's executive committee, had a message for the northwestern coach. >> before i address that, let me address pat real fast. he needs to go and take several seats, first of all, because seriously, pat, you come into these kids' home. you come into mothers and fathers and talk about how i'm going to take care of your kid. no, you're looking out for your own best interest. how can you talk about you care about these players' rights and you have players saying they're hungry, players that are traveling, coming back late night, restaurants and places aren't open to get food. he can go take several seats. i can't even believe he's commenting. coaches, stay out of it. >> nation magazine sports editor dave zyr ocht n expressed similar thoughts writing no matter how tomorrow's vote goes
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and it may take months before we know the results, the ncaa will never be the same. even after the smoke has cleared, pat fitzgerald should be held accountable for his efforts to use his power over these young men to prevent them from having a seat at a table that has kept him very well fed. joining me now from chicago where he's been reporting on this vote is dave ziron. thanks for being here. >> great to be here, jonathan. >> i want to play you this second clip from the northwestern presser yesterday. take a listen. >> there have been some allegations by union supporters that northwestern engaged in unfair labor practices during the election campaign. that is simply not true. >> dave, i understand you spoke to some labor lawyers about this. what did they say about the actions of northwestern and its head coach? >> they said that pat fitzgerald is either walking a very fine line or he is just basically
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thrown up on that line. keep in mind what we know about what pat fitzgerald has said to players that are just things in the fun lick sphere. we don't know what he's saying to players behind closed doors. anybody who believes that he is just expressing his opinion, which he is allowed to do legally, and not engaging in threats or concepts of retaliation, which he is not allowed to do, i mean people who believe in that probably also believe rand paul is sincere in his desire for racial reconciliation. it's absolute garbage. the thing we have to keep in mind about pat fitzgerald as well, he played at northwestern in the mid-1990s. his leg was broken as a player and when cane colter first started his union campaign, he sent out a tweet that was supportive. so the labor lawyers said it's pretty clear that pat fitzgerald has been coached to walk this fine line. we also have to remember, jonathan, that a football team is not a consensus-based organization. it is very top down, it is very
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autocratic, and any idea that players feel like that they have freedom to express themselves in the coach-player relationship is an absolute myth. >> david, as you wrote, it's also almost like a military operation. i just want to point something out. our colleagues at up with steve kornacki received this echt mail from collin ellis. he said northwestern has treated me as family from day one and i truly believe they have had my best interest in mind. this idea was founded on creating change within the ncaa and it has turned into a northwestern versus northwestern issue. while the union could serve as a blueprint for other schools to adopt and possibly create change within the ncaa, i was personally not willing to risk all that i have at northwestern for the potential for change within the ncaa. so, david, does it matter what happens with the northwestern players vote? whenever we find out its results or is change inevitable at this
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point? >> change is absolutely inevitable. the horse is out of the barn. the water is out of the bottle. because right now according to federal law, if you go to a private college, you can try to organize a union. you are a worker and a coach is your boss. which is, frankly, about recognizing the reality in front of our face. it's like saying the sky is blue. i have to tell you, jonathan, i was on a sports radio show and the host is one of those, not to stereotype, but one of those meathead guys who's like, well, you know, what have you and eating raw meat and he said to me, you know my opinion on this has shifted dramatically in the last six years because i used to say, no, they should be happy just to play football and get a chance to get a scholarship. but i can't look at these $6 billion tv contracts anymore and say that this is anything but a business. and what's also out of the barn, jonathan, is, yes, the nlrb ruling only pertains to private colleges, but right now there's legislation in connecticut and legislation in ohio to try to get this to apply to public
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universities as well. so this is not going anywhere. no matter the results of the vote. >> let me read you something that northwestern vp alan cubbage also said. asked what concrety would be worse under an employee relationship, he answered, again, we believe they are only students. it would change it from an academic relationship to an employee-employer relationship. given how much money the ncaa pulls in and doesn't share with its players, is this a bad thing? what are the potential pitfall, quickly? >> if it was an academic relationship, why aren't they getting class credit for playing football? why are they spending 60 hours a week doing it? why are they limited in terms of the classes they can take because of the insane travel schedules that exist for the 21st century athlete? there needs to be a recognition of the reality. that doesn't mean they don't go to class anymore, but it does mean they get a seat at the table to talk about the terms of their work. >> dave zirin in chicago, always
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good talking sports with you, dave. coming up, president obama's risky reform and the supreme court rules on race. starts with back pain... ...and a choice. take 4 advil in a day which is 2 aleve... ...for all day relief. "start your engines" oh, there's a prize, all right. [ male announcer ] inside every box of cheerios are those great-tasting little o's
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there's something about the word "supreme" in the title supreme court that makes you think that's it, done, final. when that court rules, discussion over. the supreme court said it. i mean that's what made the roberts ruling on obamacare so important. yes, the political debate continues, but we now know obamacare is the law of the land. simply put, that is how it works on the national level and for the most part on the state level too. the state supreme court is the final say. except in oklahoma. check out this line from the
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oklahoma supreme court's own website. unlike most states, oklahoma has two courts of last resort. the supreme court determines all issues of a civil nature and the oklahoma court of criminal appeals decides all criminal matters. and this week that rare oklahoma system, those two courts of last resort created a lot of confusion for the fate of these two men. clayton locket and charles warner. both are death row inmates scheduled for execution and both of these men requested a delay of those executions in part of over where their execution drugs came from. the appeal first went to the state supreme court, which basically said this isn't our thing and transferred the request over to the court of criminal appeals. the inmates' pending case about drug secrecy is a civil case with the supreme court, not a criminal case in our court. so a few days later the state's
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supreme court stepped back in and did what the other court said no to. ordered a delay of the executions until the appeal could be resolved. it was the first time the oklahoma supreme court had ever blocked an execution, and that set people off. oklahoma governor mary fallon issued the executive order to stay the executions, but under protest, writing that the supreme court was, quote, outside the constitutional authority of that body. one state representative even introduced a resolution calling for the impeachment of the five justices who voted for the delay. then on wednesday, the state supreme court ruled that in fact the state does have the right to keep the source of lethal injection drugs secret, lifting the stay and effectively declaring the executions could move forward. in a concurring opinion, state justice steven taylor called the inmates' appeal frivolous and said that if they were to be hanged, they would have no right to know whether it be by cotton
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or nylon rope. of course the drugs that make up the lethal injection are not rope. in fact they are a combination of drugs that are experimental, never before used in the quantities that oklahoma plans to use, leaving serious questions about whether the executions will comport with the eight amendment's ban on cruel and unusual suffering. the executions are now set for tuesday. oklahoma's first double execution in nearly 80 years. up next, have we seen the beginning of the end of affirmative action? just what did the supreme court do this week? it may be more complicated than we first thought. i ll people it's for the climate. the conditions in new york state are great for business. new york is ranked #2 in the nation for new private sector job creation. and now it's even better because they've introduced startup new york - dozens of tax-free zones where businesses pay no taxes for ten years.
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prohibit public colleges and universities from considering race in admissions decision. 58% of voters agreed to add the ban to michigan's state constitution. the amendment specifically bars colleges from granting preferential treatment on the basis of race or ethnicity. the ban was challenged as unconstitutional. opponents argued that putting the ban into the state constitution violated equal protection under the law because it is much harder to change the state constitution than to change a law adopted by the legislature or to change an individual school policy. but on tuesday, the supreme court ruled that michigan voters had every right to enact that ban and enshrine it in their constitution. justice anthony kennedy wrote this case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved, it is about who may resolve it. deliberative debate on sensitive issues such as racial preferences all may often may shade into rancor but that does not justify removing certain
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court-determined issues from the voters' reach: justice sonia se sotomayor wrote a 58-page dissent and read part of it to emphasize how much they disagree with the opinion. she wrote the constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat but neither does it give the majority free rein to effect selective barriers. the political process doctrine ensures that the majority when it wins does so without rigging the rules of the game to ensure its success. today the court scarrdiscards t doctrine without good reason. the activist group that challenged the michigan law vowed to continue fighting with protests and sit-ins and held a small rally at the university of michigan ann arbor on thursday. university officials said they would work to find other ways --
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even attorney general eric holder weighed in at a justice department event promoting diversity. >> justice sonia sotomayor said just yesterday in her courageous and very personal dissent in the michigan college admissions case, we ought not, and i quote, wish away rather than confront the racial inequality that exists in our society. >> after the supreme court's ruling, some opponents of affirmative action saw an opportunity. one state senator from wisconsin, who is running for u.s. congress, glenn grothman, quickly moved to reintroduce legislation banning affirmative action policies in wisconsin saying, quote, the average person does not realize how extensive race and gender preferences are in our society. here to break down this ruling for us, exactly what it said and what it could mean for affirmative action across the country is akeel reed amar, refer of law and political science at yale university. professor, thank you for being here.
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>> thanks. >> so what happened here? what did the court rule? >> one thing we heard is it was a 6-2 vote so just do the math. this one means this actually split the liberals. justice sotomayor joined by justice ginsberg but steven briar actually agreed with the result. and it's a complicated case. actually it's quite personal for me. i was born in ann arbor but there's some old cases that could be read broadly to support justice sotomayor's position but you could also read them more narrowly and that's what the majority showed to do. justice briar argued in his opinion partly out of respect for the democratic process. affirmative action is permissible, but it's not required. and so the people of the states get to decide just how much affirmative action they want to do. that was basically briar's argument and it's a version of
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justice kennedy's argument for the plurality. >> speaking of justice kennedy, here's what he said the decision is not about. he wrote before the court addresses the question presented, it is important to note what this case is not about. it is not about the constitutionality or the merits of race conscious admissions policies in higher education. >> right. and there were two other justices, you know, there are a lot of moving parts to this. this was a really fractured ruling. justice kagan, the newest appointee to the court, recused herself presumably because he was involved as solicitor general in the case. so we've talked about kennedy's opinion, who says this really isn't about affirmative action, it's about michigan's -- the people of michigan's right to decide one way or the other. justice sotomayor thinks it's very much about affirmative action. here's what two other justices said. justices scalia and thomas.
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they said affirmative action is unconstitutional unless to remedy something. so michigan is restating what they think it requires which is no affirmative action. justice kennedy didn't say that. chief justice roberts and ali at which time -- alito said it may be permissible, but it's a choice for each state. >> now, you mentioned justice sotomayor and her dissent. she wrote very personally about this. i'm only going to read part of what she said because we're going to talk more about this later. and race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way and that cannot be wished away. and we have the fuller -- the quote there, but what i wanted to ask you is, is there a place for that sentiment in supreme court jurisprudence? >> well, she's -- these are difficult cases. people bring their own life
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experience and perspective to them. there was a kind of honesty to her point of view. chief justice roberts took her on very directly. he wrote separately and he said, listen, even if you like affirmative action, you're not saying that it's actually required in this situation. you're not saying that the university of michigan itself couldn't have done away with affirmative action. so if the university of michigan itself can do away with affirmative action, why can't the people of michigan more generally do away with it. >> professor, stay with us. when we come back, i have more voices to bring into this discussion and we'll take a closer look at majority rule when it comes to the rights of minorities. justice sonia sotomayor had a few things to say about it. that's coming up next. >> when i call myself an affirmative action baby, i'm talking about the essence of what affirmative action was when it started. >> is there still a need for it today?
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models of any brand. hurry in and get a $1,000 fuel reward card and 0.9% apr for 60 months on tdi models. in the michigan affirmative action case decided by the supreme court this week, a central question was this. in a democracy, when can the majority make decisions about the rights of minorities? justice sonia sotomayor in her impassioned dissent wrote, quote, we are fortunate to live in a democratic society, but without checks, democratically approved legislation can owe press minority groups. for that reason our constitution places limits on what a majority of the people may do. this case implicates one such limit, the guarantee of equal protection of the laws. still with me is ahkil reed amar, professor from yale university. joining the table is halley potter, judith brown dian echt s
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and raul reyes, an attorney columnist at "usa today." judith, when and how is the majority allowed to limit the rights of minorities? and is that what's happening in michigan affirmative action? >> what's at issue in michigan is instead of going through the traditional process of the board of trustees or governors and the administration at the university, they set up a new rule. and the new rule went around that process, that political process, and instead set it up through a ballot initiative. the concern is that the equal protection clause protects minorities from mob rule basically. and what's really troubling about this is that this really is taking a swipe at equal protection. equal protection -- i mean justice scalia, to actually say
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that the equal protection clause is not about groups, but it's about individuals, perhaps he needs to even go watch the movie "lincoln" to understand why we have an equal protection act and who it does protect. >> professor amar, what do you think of that question? when and how is the majority allowed to limit the rights of the minority? >> remember the equal protection clause itself was voted on and it came out of a political process. scalia and thomas would say all michigan did is reiterate the basic idea of equal protection. now, the court majority doesn't embrace that extreme position. the court majority actually says affirmative action is basically a policy question. you can have it in certain limited contexts and basically it's up to the people of michigan to decide that. personally, i think justice briar, remember he's a liberal too, this one split the liberals, said in this close question, tie goes to democracy.
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the people of michigan can do it one way. the people of connecticut can do it another way. let's see actually what might look the best, at least constitutionally. >> the problem is when race is involved there has to be a check on it because of racial minorities. >> here's one final thing that the majority did emphasize again and again. there was no history of past proved racial discrimination in michigan, so what we're not dealing with here which we were in some of these earlier cases is remedies for proved racial violations. so those other cases were limiting the ability of minorities to get remedies for intentional racial discrimination and kennedy says we don't have that here. >> raul, you wanted to jump in. >> right. i think to judith's point, that we're talking here is that one of the court's central roles is to be the guardian and to ensure that there's fairness and justice for all people and to guard against majority rule. we only have to look at something like prop 8 in california. that was majority rule and that
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was ultimately overturned as unconstitutional. one thing that struck me about sonia sotomayor's defense, as you're talking about it, it was a traditional defense in the sense that it relied on precedent. we went back to the idea that the court -- the 14th amendment guaranteed equal protection for all people and then she did present some of her life experience which, by the way, scalia and thomas have done in the past without resulting in so much criticism. >> you brought up prop 8, which is something that came to mind when i read the stories on the ruling. i mean prop 8 was an instance when the majority voted to ban same-sex marriage in california and yet last year, the supreme court came in, they didn't -- they ruled on standing, but as a result, they allowed marriages to go forward, basically invalidating prop 8? >> and remember, actually, justice kennedy in an earlier decision struck down a colorado ordinance that discriminated against gay folks. so here's what he says is the
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difference. this michigan proposition does not discrimination on grounds of race or sex or sexual orientation. >> but that's not true -- >> whereas prop 8 actually did. it said straight people could get married and gay people can't. this ordinance, he says, doesn't say that at all. it doesn't treat formally -- this is actually lawyers take this seriously, it doesn't treat formally -- >> i'm a lawyer and i take it seriously because it does treat minorities differently. it treats minorities differently because they have to go through getting a constitutional amendment to have a say in the democracy. and if you look -- and reality is that a constitutional amendment is a very difficult thing to do. and part of the problem with what we are seeing is when the majority doesn't get its way in the legislature, we're now seeing these ballot issues where a lot of money goes in -- >> but this case found that there were problems -- >> but here's the key point.
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here's what kennedy says. minorities themselves, ourselves, disagree even about affirmative action. so it's not the case and it's patronizing and stereotyping the majority argues to assume that all minorities believe in affirmative action. >> halley, jump in here. what's your take on all this? >> i think ideally colleges would be able to look at race and socioeconomic status but i think the idea this is a policy question is interesting. it's not a settled question what's the best way to take disadvantage into account in college admissions. and if you look at other strategies, there are a lot of ways that looking at socioeconomic diversity or geographic diversity can affect racial diversity as well. so from a pragmatic perspective, i think there's still a question can we achieve these goals even without race explicitly being considered. >> i'm glad you brought that up, because justice scali aca -- hes
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what you wrote. >> as justice harlan observed over a century ago, our constitution is color blind. it would be shameful for us to stand in their way. given that he said do we still need to remedy racial discrimination in education? >> we absolutely do. i don't think that socioeconomic status perfectly maps onto the same issues that you can address with race. but socioeconomic status is particularly if it's considered in really sophisticated ways can get at a lot of those disadvantages. and i think colleges are only beginning to tap into the possibilities of that. and we could be much more sophisticated in terms of really looking at not just income but what if we also looked at family's wealth and take into factor the neighborhood poverty that is affecting people. you'll get a lot closer to taking advantage of being able to provide a leg up for disadvantaged students. >> we're going to be talking about this i think in the next block, but hold the conversation. justice sotomayor is not the
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first to express an impassioned dissent. in 1978 the court ruled that colleges can consider race in admissions but cannot use a quota system to ensure minority students get a seat. >> over four dissenters, the angriest, the court's single black, justice marshall. he called this a turning point in which meaningful equality for blacks would remain a distant dream, and he said he doubted there was a computer of determining the number of people and institutions that might be hurt by today's decision. a man ' . but jim has afib, atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat not caused by a heart valve problem. that puts jim at a greater risk of stroke. for years, jim's medicine tied him to a monthly trip to the clinic to get his blood tested. but now, with once-a-day xarelto jim's on the move. jim's doctor recommended xarelto. like warfarin, xarelto is proven effective to reduce afib-related stroke risk. but xarelto is the first and only once-a-day prescription blood thinner
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the result, according to some students, is a hostile, isolating atmosphere. to draw attention to that argument, members of ucla's black law students association recently published a video in which students of color describe their experiences at the law school. where just 33 out of about 1100 students are african-american. >> i'm in a room of 80 people just sitting by myself. everywhere i look, no one can help me. no one can jump in. no one can at least acknowledge what i'm saying has any truth. >> joining us now from los angeles is j echterlani cotton asia. they are the current co-chairs of the black law students association at ucla. thank you for being here, you two. >> thank you for having us. >> as we debate affirmative action, it's important for us to
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think about how diversity or the lack thereof affects actual students. how do you see a lack of diversity as hurting you and fellow students of color? >> i think it has tremendous effects on my ability to learn in class. it's not normal. it's not normal conditions to go to school under really. if you think about going and being the only black person in a class of over 100 students, it really affects your ability to learn. you feel hypervisible but also invisible. you feel hypervisible because in a lot of ways your tokenized. when issues of race come up in a classroom, which they do often because it's the law, you often feel made -- you're made to feel like you have to really comment on those issues. but then you feel invisible at the same time because the dominant culture is so different from what you feel, so i really don't feel like i see myself reflected a lot of time in the students, in the faculty and in
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the way that i think and experience life. i'm often the only black student in classrooms. in my 1-l section i was one of two black students and i was the only black woman. when issues of genders came up, when issues of race came up, i often felt like people looked to me to talk but then at one point got tired of me talking so much about those issues. i felt like if there were more students of color, more black women, more black people in the classroom people could have seen a variety of experiences, first of all, but also i wouldn't have had the burden of always feeling like i had to speak up. >> asia, let's broaden this out and talk about all students. how is this detrimental to all students, to white students? >> really the study of the law in particular has a lot to do with what will happen in the future. so many of my classmates will go on to be judges, prosecutors, and leaders in politics.
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and so when you lack a foundation of really understanding issues from so many different points, you are not able to go out into the world and really have effective change that will really help the country. there are several prosecutors that i'm sure if they were able to sit in a more diverse classroom, they would have a different perspective on a lot of things that are happening now. >> let's bring the conversation here to the table. halley, ask you what are the benefits to a diverse student body that the dirietriments of homogeneous student body. >> i think it's an economic issue in the country. it's important to have a diverse student body partly so that you have a critical mass of students that are part of minority groups so there is a feel of community and support and students don't feel like they have to represent their group. that's also important for all students there. that's how you counter stereotypes by having enough diversity that students see a
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variety of experiences within different demographic groups. this will also encourage critical thinking with students. if you go to school with people having the same experience as you did, you're not being challenged to communicate and think about your ideas and be prepared to enter a diverse w k workfor workforce. >> raul and judith, we're talking about law school here. how important is it that the next generation of lawyers and politicians, that they're diverse? >> first, i want to thank the people -- the students at ucla. i was the national chair of the national black law students association when i was in law school, and i know how difficult it is. i went to columbia. i was one of 34 in my class, and i know that in -- you know in, our profession, first year, you're reading cases that are about property and about the constitution and always squarely fit a discussion about race. and professors don't often, you know, include you in that
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conversation but you have to bear the burden of it. >> asia and gerloni, i want to get the last question to you. since that video, what has been the reaction on campus to the video? >> there's been a lot of negative backlash as well as people, of course, coming out to support us. but on our actual campus there has been a lot of negative backlash. we've had students receive hate mail in their mailbox. a student who was in the video got a letter in her mailbox telling her to, you know, stop being a sensitive "n" word. we had our posters and flyers ripped down off of the board. i think the environment at the school, which was very hostile before racially and isolating, it continued but it intensified after the video because it like brought up all of the issues to the forefront. we had a lot of pushback from students who were not black students but who had an opinion
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about whether what we were saying was true, whether our experiences and the way we felt was really accurate. >> asia? >> and it was an immediate backlash that was very similar to what we experience in class but more overt. and it really shows. before prop 209 was enacted, there were 46 black students in the first year class alone. now we're there and they tell us that 11 is remarkable and that we should feel good about that. these low numbers are not normal. and what they do is they breed this environment where it's okay to leave hate mail or it's okay to be harassed in the middle of school. go ahead. >> gerloni cotton and asia womack, thank you for joining us this morning and thank you very much for doing that video and taking a stand. >> thank you for having us. >> thank you. coming up, the challenge of creating diversity without considering race. what will it mean for the future of affirmative action? that's next.
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>> you know, affirmative action is simple process, a step to include people who have been left out and left behind. to affirm participation of all american citizens, not just african-americans but whites, latinos, asian american, native american and women. [ angelic music plays ] ♪ toaster strudel! best morning ever! [ hans ] warm, flaky, gooey. toaster strudel!
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the legal grounds for race-based college admissions is getting increasingly slippery with every supreme court decision. think of last year's decision in fisher versus the university of texas at austin, which increased the judicial scrutiny race-based admissions programs have to face. so many schools are left grappling with the problem of how to create a diverse student body without considering the race of their students. halley, this is your area of study. what have schools been doing to increase diversity without using traditional affirmative action? >> the good news is we've seen a
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variety of strategies that states faced with these bans already implemented and they have been relatively successful in many cases at creating racial and ethnic diversity. a lot of people have heard of the percent plans at texas, florida and california. >> the top 10%? >> is taking top graduates of high schools throughout the state so that's looking at geographic diversity. they're also really sophisticated plans. the university of colorado at boulder has recently implemented a socioeconomic affirmative action plan alongside their existing race-based plan that actually looks at a number of different socioeconomic factors for students and balances that with their overachievement. how is their academic qualifications compared to students of similar backgrounds who face those same educational obstacles. >> ahkil, you were saying before that you deal with these admissions. >> i'm the faculty director of admissions, actually. >> all the time. >> and when we actually believe in affirmative action, we believe in racial affirmative
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action, and thank goodness you see that justice kennedy didn't use this an opportunity to say you can't do it at all, which is what scalia and thomas were skag. but we focus on whether you were the first kid in your family to ever go to college or ever go to graduate school. from a yale law school perspective, you have two of our graduates on the supreme court. you have three but justice sotomayor and justice thomas both beneficiaries of affirmative action, as was i. you know, when i got admitted, i'm assuming. and they have such different -- and they both autobiographical and they have very different views. one think affirmative action was bad for him and for the race and other thinks affirmative action is absolutely necessary. >> one problem, though, i agree, halley that the top ten plan in texas, it's a way of finding diversity through other means, but the court is already chipping away at that. that was under assault in the
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fisher case last year at the university of texas, the 10% plan. i think if you take, for instance, the decision of michigan to its logical -- to a practical conclusion, that the university of michigan may not take into account race when students apply, think of what college students typically write about in their essays. frequently they write about their identities. so it's very common for someone to wright about growingup in a biracial family or as the only minority in a certain environment. does that mean these schools can no longer consider those types of applications? whereas other students are free to write about their full life experience. minority students are not. >> and on that note, thank you, ahkil reed amar and halley porter. judith and raul are stibing around. coming up next, the risky move that could thousands of lives. and joe becker, of "forcing the spring" joins us live in the
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it doesn't tell me how many stains it removes. [ female announcer ] crest 3d white whitestrips. the way to whiten. welcome back. i'm jonathan capehart in for melissa harris-perry. this week president obama took the wheel and began turning it away from nearly three decades of u.s. drug 1710ing. >> i'm pleased to announce a department of justice initiative to encourage qualified federal inmates to petition to have their sentences commuted or reduced by the president of the united states. >> but pause with me for a moment because in order to understand the new direction in which the president is taking us, i need to take you back to the moment another president set us along our current course. this is october 27, 1986, the day ronald reagan signed a law
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caused the anti-drug abuse act. this was the first legislation to formalize america's war on drugs and appropriated $1.7 billion for new prisons, drug education and treatment. and that's $1.7 billion in 1986 money, so you know that's a lot of money. but the law's most lasting legacy was the creation of a 100-1 sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine. it meant despite the fact crack and cocaine -- it took 100 times more cocaine than crack to trigger the same mandatory sentence. it also proposed mandatory minimum sentences that took sentencing decisions out of the hand of judges and forced them to put low-level drug offenders behind bars for years. today 27 years later wore still living with the consequences of what that drug war has wrought. an explosion in the federal prison population from about 24,000 in 1980 to more than
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200,000 by 2009, an increase of more than 700%. by 2009, drug offenders comprised more than half of the total population of federal inmates, many of whom were subject to mandatory minimum sentences. the new tough on crime policy shift was also accompanied by profound racial inequities incarceration rates. despite comparable rates of drug sales african-americans and latinos are far more likely to become criminalized and serve longer sentences for drug offenses. in 2010 president obama began taking the first major deviation away from the policies that created those disparities when he signed the fair sentencing act. that reduced the disparity in the amount of cocaine versus crack required from 100-1 to 18-1 and eliminated the mandatory minimums for simple crack possession which brings me back to wednesday's announcement
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and the obama administration's sharp turn to bring justice to the casualties to the war on drugs. in what "the new york times" called a symbolic break from the past, the justice department has extended the opportunity for offenders to be released early if they meet a strict set of guidelines. now, it's not going to be easy. the prison gates are by no means being thrown open with convicts pouring out into the streets. it will be quite hard for an inmate to secure early release. in order to move to the front of the line for clemency consideration, inmates must have been in prison at least ten years and be serving a sentence that would be significantly shorter under current laws. they must be nonviolent, low-level offenders with no history of gang affiliation and criminal activity and demonstrated good behavior during their time in prison. every inmate will be notified in the coming week of the opportunity for clemency and can request free legal help to prepare their application.
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although the justice department could not confirm how many would be eligible, the new initiative could mean hundreds, possibly thousands who were unfairly sentenced could finely finish repaying their debt to society. joining me is glenn martin, president and founder of just leadership usa which aims to cut u.s. prison population in half by 2030. dafna linzer, managing editor of msnbc.com who in her previous role authored a crucial series on the obama administration's clemency operation that led to notable change. judith brownedianis and raul reyes. this is a major announcement but it's not like inmates will apply and be released next week. from a practical standpoint, what's it going to take for this plan to be implemented and how long before we start seeing some, if any, changes in the federal prison population? >> let me start by putting it in
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further perspective. so 40 years, $1 trillion, 40 million people arrested and drugs are cheaper and more available than ever before. with the recidivism rate in the federal system of two-thirds over three years, i can't think of any industry that would have such a failure rate. we found a way to monetize misery through private prison. every time you read a criteria, what it takes for a person to know eligible, we start with 200,000 people in the federal system just kept shrinking and shrinking and shrinking. the fact that you have to serve ten years and ten years with a good disciplinary record? this is a system thatt inherenty about punishment. mother teresa would possibly do ten years and not come out with a distinguigood disciplinary re >> if you're someone put in prison for this type of crime, you are utterly hopeless. you have truly nothing to lose. so like you said it's almost the
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human condition that maybe you get involved in violence or that it drives you to it. also when we speak about the war on drugs, it's important you touched on it with the racial disparities. it's a war on drugs with an asterisk because it's a war on drugs for poor communities. it's a war on drugs in communities of color. it's not a war on drugs -- it was not a war on drugs for the whole country. >> a few important things about this. one is that the president said in his state of the union that he was going to start to use the power of the pen. and so it's important that he actually took this step. but also important because it's signaling all of the work that so many folks like you, glenn, have done and the aclu to move away from a punishment nation. and also to make sure that we have these unlikely allies, right, which in the republican and gop party which are really about like the money part. they don't want to keep putting out that money. but for those of us who do civil rights work, it's important because we know who this hits the hardest. we know that communities of
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color are overpoliced, are overarrested, are overprosecuted and, therefore, disproportionately in the system. >> we can't have this conversation without talking about just how risky this move is politically for the president. you know, during the 1980s and the 1990s, a move like this would have gotten the president just completely, you know, killed by the opposition. of course we can't talk about this until we take a look at the ad that derailed michael dukakis' presidential campaign as a reminder of the political consequences of supporting a policy to release inmates from prison. >> he allowed first degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison. one was willie horton who murdered a boy in a robbery, stabbing him 19 times. despite a life sentence, horton received ten weekend passes from prison. horton fled, kidnapped a young couple, stabbing the man and repeatedly raping his
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girlfriend. weekend prison passes, dukakis on crime. >> that killed michael dukakis in the presidential election. so what's changed since then? >> that was an incredibly effective ad that everyone thinks about when they think about clemency, right? name me a person who has been pardoned by a president in the last 20 years other than marc rich, but none of you can. or name me a federal inmate whose sentence was commuted who went out and committed a crime after they were finally released from very, very long sentences. nobody can. and the fact is, the president i think in this case, you know, took many steps, i think, along the way, starting in 2010 to lay the groundwork for a lot more bipartisan support to mitigate some of that political risk. i would say that the steps that they have taken now, even though as you say the numbers will be very low for the number of people who will really be eligible right at the beginning based on the criteria, but this is the beginning criteria. that's kind of the way i see it.
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that doesn't mean that the criteria can't be broadened as the program goes along. but i would tell you after having done enormous investigative work on the pardons office, the people who the president and the attorney general are interested in commuting, those are exactly the people that the pardons office was working overtime to prevent their release. you know -- >> and on that point because i was going to ask you about that. any reason to think that these folks will be more accurate and more efficient this time around? >> i think absolutely. i think number one the president coming out and saying what he is in interested in seeing and being very public about it i think already creates a kind of accountability. beyond that, i would also say bringing in federal public defenders and members of the new york bar to help people process applications. that's a wide open door. more importantly, i think, getting rid of the pardon attorney as they did this week was the most important thing that i have seen them do as far
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as clemency goes in a long time, and that was an absolutely necessary step to clean up that office and bring in a new pardon attorney who has spent her career dedicated to helping the poor and feeding the hungry and sentencing reform. >> real fast, glenn. >> on the issue of parred stisa, it was george bush who talked about this who recognized we had 700,000 people exiting our prison each year and we needed to do something about that and push congress to create the second chance act which has been every year since then. when we come back, he's not a president but he played one on tv. can he persuade congress to side with the real president on sentencing reform? >> a basic principle of justice is that the punishment should fit the crime. mandatory minimums undermine that principle by forcing judges to ignore individual circumstances. our ford dealer t? they think about tires. and what they've been through lately. polar vortexes,
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it's time for elected officials to focus on solutions like flexible sentencing guidelines. our goal must be a justice system that avoids unnecessary incarceration and irresponsible spending. tell congress to pass the smarter sentencing act. >> that was actor and activist martin sheen reprising his old role was "the west wing's" joe sooia bartlett to urge the congress to do something about sentencing reform. you might imagine congress really would be more likely to be in agreement with a fictional president than the current occupant of the real west wing. but as it turns out, sentencing reform makes for some unusual political alliances. take a look at some of the senators supporting the smarter sentencing act you just heard
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president bartlett talking about. that's a mix of rs and ds next to those names. the smarter sentencing act goes beyond the president's clemency powers to make what the "l.a. times" has called the most far-reaching changes in years to federal sentencing and parole kbi guidelines. a similar bill is currently in committee in the house, except the warm and fuzzy kumbaya moment with the president ended this week when it came to the politics, because no sooner had the president announced his effort to fix the sentencing system than some members of congress found reason to criticize it. on thursday "the washington post" reported on some legislators grumping about the president flexing his executive muscle to push sentencing reform. and the day before that, there was a republican house judiciary committee chairman bob goodlate la meanting what he called the president's, quote, blatant disregard for our nation's laws.
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we're back here with our panel. i want to ask a question that i should have asked in the last block and that is the politics of what the president is doing and the risk to the president and to democrats. i want to go to this vincent shaheen attack ad that's playing. let's see that if we can. >> it's a fact, trial lawyer vincent shaheen made money off criminals, got a sex offender out of jail time, defended a child abuser and represented others charged with violent acts. threatening to kill, punched in the face, shaheen defended violent criminals who abused women. >> i mean that's willie horton 2.0. what do you think the political risks are of what the president is doing? that ad is pretty hard-hitting. >> it is, except we have 40 years of, unfortunately, creating criminal justice policy based on one-offs and we have to move away from that and recognize we have an entire system that's not working. if you're conservative, guess what, big government, this is
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the second biggest ticket item on anybody's budget. if you care about families, if you care with communities, guess what, this destroys families, this destroys communities. so it seems to me like over the last ten years this actually is the one issue that's had the most bipartisan support and we should continue in that direction and not allow ads like this to derail it. >> jonathan, what strikes me when we hear some of these conservative voices coming out against this is that so many of these conservatives insist upon a literal reading of the constitution. the president has these clemency and pardon powers in article 2, section 2 of the constitution. it's right there, that's fully within his executive authority to do it. but, you know, there is a concern conservative argument to be made. texas has cut their prison population and saved millions so that's why we're starting to see some of the new wave, the 2016 candidates like rand paul, potential 2016 candidates like rand paul, rick perry, embracing
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this idea because from a fiscally conservative viewpoint it's an attractive idea. but the big wild card is the reflexive republican opposition to anything that president obama likes. >> exactly. i think republicans in congress need to get beyond the fact that they hate president obama and perhaps read their local newspapers, because in the states we're seeing major reform. congress just doesn't want to go along because they don't want to go along with the president's agenda. >> and you know what, where governors can pardon, they do. they actually use their clemency power all the time. americans are used to the idea of people being pardoned and having their sentences commuted. this is the president's only unfetterred constitutional power that he has. he uses it very seldom. i think in this case the president has the authority to release anybody he wants from prison on any day. and really with the stroke of a pen he could really change sort of the number of people who are still serving, who are still stuck serving overly long sentences they wouldn't have had
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they been convicted today. >> what's coming out of the republican party is, you know, sort of makes me speechless because they're actually, as you just said, this is a bipartisan effort that's happening. none other than rand paul in new hampshire, i believe a few weeks ago, had something rather interesting to say. let's roll that. >> the door is not going to open up to the african-american community or the hispanic community until we have something to offer. if you look at the war on drugs, three out of four people in prison are black or brown. but your kids and grandkids aren't perfect either. police don't come to your neighborhoods. you get a better lawyer. >> i mean that's pretty remarkable, one, from rand paul. but two, from a republican who is considered to be a leading contender for the 2016 republican presidential nomination. does his party want to hear this? >> you know, i think that -- i really think that americans understand that this country has
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been addicted to mass incarceration for a very long time. libertarians -- the rand paul thing is a perfect example. this is where they come together. you know, i don't see a lot of backlash from his party on this. people listen to it and a lot of people agree. people are very, very tired and would like very much i think to leave the '80s behind on the drug war. >> the fact that conservatives are speaking about this, not just here but also at cpac siz the gathering of the hard core faithful of the party, speaking about that issue i think that's a real sea change that people are recognizing that this policy has been so foolish, so wasteful, as rand paul mentioned it's caused a lot of destruction in our communities. >> crime is down. you know, that's just the fact. crime is down so it just makes sense. let's follow the research, let's follow what the research tells us works and recognize that crime is down. >> stay with us, because sentencing reform is just the beginning. what happens to those former offenders when they come home? we'll get into that when we come
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back. first, rand paul isn't the only one speaking truths to the republican base. at a rotary club meeting in ohio this week, house speaker john boehner mocked his republican colleagues over another tough issue, immigration reform. >> here's the attitude. oh, don't make me do this. oh, this is too hard. so here i was again, explaining my moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis to another new stylist. it was a total embarrassment. and not the kind of attention i wanted. so i had a serious talk with my dermatologist about my treatment options. this time, she prescribed humira-adalimumab. humira helps to clear the surface of my skin by actually working inside my body. in clinical trials, most adults with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis saw 75% skin clearance. and the majority of people were clear or almost clear in just 4 months. humira can lower your ability to fight infections, including tuberculosis. serious, sometimes fatal events, such as infections, lymphoma,
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[ zach ] yeah, this definitely beats hanging out on a step ladder. [ laughs ] golive garden'svorites asignature favorites, just $10 including creamy fettuccine alfredo, and our classic lasagna. plus unlimited soup or salad and warm breadsticks. signature favorites, just $10 all week long, at olive garden. the prisoners being offered the opportunity for early release under the president's clemency initiative will stay branded as former felons once they return to society, which means they'll still be facing the same challenges in employment, housing, education and voting rights as any other formerly incarcerated person. it's why the plan to bring harsh sentencing policies to an end is really just the beginning, deputy attorney general james cole acknowledged as much this week. >> the smart on crime initiative has a lot of features to it, one of which is re-entry. and that starts both while
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people are incarcerated with the programs that we have in place in the bureau of prisons, plus the follow-up that's being done after they come out. we have the attorney general's interagency re-entry council that involves multiple agencies throughout the government because they're so important to make sure that once people get out, they can stay out and become productive members of society. >> now, glenn, what the deputy attorney general says sounds very good in a sound bite about multiple agencies working together on prisoner re-entry, but is there really any there? >> i think we have to give credit to the attorney general and our president for having this interagency re-entry council for almost the entire time. there have been tangible results for people exiting the criminal justice system. as you know, i did six years in prison before i kpilted 13 years ago. i faced many of the barriers you just mentioned, employment, housing, education, so on. attorney general holder a couple of years ago categorized all of
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the consequences on the federal level as 35,000. today we can take stock of them, start to roll them back where they are not doing anything to increase public safety, but our prison system was created at the intersection of jobless ghettos and backlash to the civil rights era. if we're going to end this criminal justice system then we need to focus on how to remove these barriers so when people exit prison they're not going into a virtual prison in the community. >> we have to get away from punishment for a lifetime. that's really what we have had. on the area of voting rights, for example, in florida, we have over one million people who cannot vote due to felony convictions. we've seen movement in virginia where they worked with the governors, the past two governors and governor mcauliffe has added to the list of people who can get their rights restored automatically those who were actually convicted of drug offenses, so finally we're seeing some movement but there's a lot of work to do. >> the challenge is immense because the people who could potentially be released have served a minimum of ten years so
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you're talking about people who have been removed from society for at least a decade. these are people who did not -- most likely did not have any type of stable home or job life, or legal job life before and now they're going to be back in the workforce and we already have a tight economy. so it's going to be a really steep hill. but i think that's the critical part of this equation is giving them the support and the mechanisms to succeed when they re-enter society. >> you're talking about the job force and i'm going to put this map up that we have. this is a map of states that have adopted laws to ban the "are you a felon" check box on job applications. is that the kind of meaningful reform that will make a real difference for former felons does anyone think? >> you know, on the federal level, the equal employment opportunity commission has gone further. i think ban the box is great and was started by people who were formerly incarcerated in san francisco. i think that's important to point out. but the eeoc says to employees
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that you can't have blanket policies that deny a job based solely on a criminal record because it has disproportionate racial impact and potentially violates title vii of the. >> dafna, so republicans are backing this largely on ideological and economic reasons. small government, cut spending. but these are also the same arguments that they're using to cut the social safety net. you know what i'm talking about. so if we're not making serious policy decisions that will support people once they get out of jail, could sentencing reform ultimately create more problems than it solves, do you think? >> yeah, one of the people that the president -- whose sentences the president commuted in december, clarence aaron, the president commuted his sentence in december. he actually went home last week. he went through a very long sort of re-entry program. he was in a halfway house, you know, with family support, job support, you know, community support, all in this -- headed in this direction. i think here you really do kind
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of need that extra -- that extra safety net to help people, otherwise you are in this place. i think also this is the reason that so many more people are petitioning for pardons, because they really want a clean record and a much fresher start after they get out. >> at the end of the day it will be cheaper to do that, right, to provide these programs and re-entry program than to keep them incarcerated year by year. >> one of the reasons clarence aaron got to go home is because of dafna linzer. glenn, dafna, judith and raul, thank you for joining us. coming up, a story that stems from the supreme court case about proposition 8 that you have not heard anywhere else. it's a kind of "guess who's coming to dinner" tale that will amaze you. scott: okay, neighbors, here's the top-drawer skinny. scotts wraps each seed in a brilliant water smart plus coating, that feeds, protects, and holds in moisture to make growing thicker, healthier grass easier.
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just when you thought you
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might have heard all the backwards, misinformed, intolerant comments on race you could stand, think again. it's why my letter this week simply has to go to the man who wonders if the negro might be better off as a slave rather than living off of the government. dear cliven bundy, it's me, jonathan. congratulations, you've provided the nation with another cringe worthy moment in race. but should we be surprised that you would provide such a moment? i mean you're already quite the rabble-rouser. according to the feds you have been illegally grazing your herd on federal land since 1993, when the bureau of land management, acting under a court order, tried to seize some of your herd, the next thing you know, you became a fox news enabled hero of the poor, put upon right wing. they gave you a platform to pop off about government overreach and whatever else is rattling around in that head of yours. then for some reason you decided, and i'm not going to get into why, but you decided to
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spout out on the plight of the negro. >> i want to tell you one more thing i know about the negro. the government house, the door was usually open and the older people and the kids, there was always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch. they didn't have nothing to do. they didn't have nothing for their kids to do. they didn't have nothing for their young girls to do. and because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? they abort their young children, they put their young men in jail because they never learn how to pick cotton. and i've often wondered, were they better off as slaves picking cotton, having family life and doing things or are they better off under government subsidy. they didn't get no more freedom, they got less freedom. >> they never learned to pick cotton?
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right. because nothing engrains a work ethic like being hurchged off in the hot sun picking the fiber under the watchful eyes of a sadist. are they better off as slaves? learning to read, marrying or running away is the ideal. they put their young men in jail? yeah, because structural racism, disparities in sentencing placed for role whatsoever in life choices that landed them there. are they better off under government subsidy? this is rich. this is being asked by the man who takes the ultimate government subsidy by having his cattle roam over federal land and not pay for it. cliven, i have news for you. you are the one living off the government. to make matters worse, you double down on your remarks on thursday. you wondered this, first, on the peter schiff show. >> i'm wondering, are they happier now under this government subsidy system than they were when they were slaves
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and they was able to have their family structure together, and the chickens and a garden, and the people have something to do? and so in my mind i'm wondering are they better off being slaves in that sense or better off being slaves to the united states government in the sense of a subsidy. >> and then you did it again in your daily press conference. again. >> the question is, is are they slaves the way they are or where they live, slaves to charity and government subsidized homes and are they slaves when their daughters are having abortions and their sons are in the prisons? i'm not saying that i thought they should be slaves or i'm not saying they was better off one way or another. i was wondering whether they were better off. >> wow, you sure are a curious one. wonder no more, mr. bundy, the
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answer is no, okay? let's just be real clear. african-americans were not better off during slavery. if there is any upside to your blatantly racist and repugnant remarks, it's that you are now not only revealed to be a thief, but also a bigot. and your bigotry has sent your supporters running for cover. both senators rand paul of kentucky and dean heller abandoned you on thursday. senator heller at least had the guts to say through his spokesperson that he completely disagrees with mr. bundy's appalling and racist statements and condemns them in the most strenuous way. cliven, you seem to take great joy in the supporters who flocked to your ranch to help fend off government authorities and the conservative media that gave you a megaphone and in the national politicians who sang your praises, but i'd suggest you get real comfortable on that 160-acre ranch of yours, because now that people see your true colors, it might get real lonely, real fast.
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[ barks ] june 26th, 2013, was nothing short of huge of dates history will recall for the movement for equality in this country. there is not just one but two key decisions from the supreme court. the court struck down a key part of the 1996 defense of marriage act which denied benefits to gay couples married under state law and the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage to move forward in california. the images you're seeing are from outside the court when the news was announced. at the same time the crowds were celebrating msnbc thomas roberts was reporting live and then this happened. >> i think i see chad griffin from the hrc talking on the telephone, which i believe is with president obama. chad is right there. >> the president is on the line from air force one. >> president obama. >> go ahead. >> hello, mr. president, this is
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chris perry. >> and sandy, we thank you so much for your support. >> we are real proud of you guys and we're so glad that in california and a growing number of states around your leadership so you guys should be very proud of today and your courage, you are helping out a whole lot of people everywhere. >> the man holding the phone in that clip is chad griffin. his efforts are part of a new book called "forcing the spring" by jo becker here with me in studio. also with us are the two women you saw on the phone with the president, chris perry and sandy steer. they were two of the four plaintiffs in the prop 8 case that pushed for same-sex marriage rights in the state of california. also with us for the first time on television, the daughter of the attorney who argued before the supreme court for prop 8
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and, therefore, against allowing same-sex marriage in the state of california, ashley leineger. thank you all for being here. i'm very happy that you guys were all able to get here. jo, i need to start with you. the elephant in the room, the criticism that you've received about your book. let me read this quote from andrew sullivan, which i will just say right up front because i've written about it, i do not agree. is becker even aware of the history of the struggle at all? throughout the 1990s, marriage equality had royaled the political landscape, dominated the national debate at times, reframed and rebranded the entire gay movement, achieved intellectual heft and key legal break throughs such as the landmark hawaii case that vaulted the entire subject from an idea to a reality. >> this is one criticism of a book any write. i wrote about one chapter, a really, gripping amazing chapter. i was fortunate enough to be with chris and sandy for nour and a half years and get to know
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ashley. you know, it's been quite a ride. >> let's talk about what's actually -- what's in the book. ashley, you met chris and sandy for the first time this morning. you all had breakfast earlier. >> yes. >> and during the course of the arguments to ban same-sex marriage you proposed to your partner. >> i did. >> and what was it like for you to know that your stepfather was arguing against marriage equality? what was his reaction and were you worried it could impact the case? >> that definitely came into play, that question of what to do with everything that was going on and the information that he had so there was definitely a question as to whether that would impact, but the general tone was happiness. the story jo tells in her book is accurate and fair and respectful of our relationship, my father and i. >> chris, you had an interaction with chuck cooper after the arguments. describe what happened. >> well, as you know, that day was a very big day and we were excited to be at the supreme court arguing for a
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constitutional -- or constitutional protection for equal right to marriage. sandy and i had sat together many years and watched chuck cooper argue the other side of this case and wondered if his heart was really in it and didn't know what might be causing some of those, you know, i guess, a little bit of ambivalence in some way. what was really interesting at the end of the argument was he and i walked right into each other on the way out of the supreme court and he came over to me and grabbed my hand and shook it and said i really appreciate everything you're doing. and he seemed very genuine. and it was one of those moments where you realize the system is made for people to argue different sides of an issue. at the end of that, we walk away and let the justices determine what's right for everyone else and that's what we did. >> that wasn't the end of it, because what's not in jo's book is that as recently as april 3rd of this year, this month, something happened.
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sandy, i want to talk about this dinner invitation that you got from ashley's parents, from charles and debbie cooper. what was that like? breaking bread with the man who wanted to deny you the right to marry? >> we had a lovely time meeting chuck and debbie cooper and we were so thrilled to be invited into their home to talk about the experience that they have had as parents. one thing that kris and i really talked about during the trial was our life as parents and really how very -- >> you have four children. >> we have four children. young adult boys actually. and how very important it is to support families and to support gay parents, to support children, whoever they may be. we were so pleased to hear that chuck and debbie had warmly welcomed ashley's fiancee, casey, in their family, were proud to be planning that wedding and their love is so clear and their dedication to their daughter and that's what it's always been all about for us, changing hearts and minds. if we had anything to do with helping change a heart and a
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mind, we're just so happy that we could do that. >> this was a long dinner, cathartic dinner from what i'm told and clearly a fruitful dinner. >> yes. >> jo, these personal stories, this is what you were getting at in your book, the personal side of marriage equality. and that's certainly happened learning more about kris and sandy and ashley's upcoming wedding. how else do you hope the book impacts the fight? >> yeah, i mean, look, the trial itself, which is half the book almost, was an incredible experience. it was an incredible experience for anybody sitting through it. it was an educational experience. but what was interesting is it really impacted, you know, ashley's dad. >> my world. i mean kris and sandy and watching them in trial was, i think, really what made coming out to chuck fairly easy because they saw these two pulled
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together, wonderful, long-standing, committed women. i just think it gave this really positive view. >> but you give them a lot of credit for softening your father's view, but -- stance, but don't you think your coming out played a role in his coming around? >> absolutely. the evolution continuing. he's just been amazing, he really has. it's a great story, and i'm lucky and i hope that it helps anybody who reads it. >> and i should point out that casey is here but i guess she's a little camera shy. everyone, hang on for me. we need to take a quick break but we'll come right back with all of you after this. the problem isn't likely to go away... ...on its own. so it's time we do something about it. and there's help. premarin vaginal cream. a prescription that does what no over-the-counter product was designed to do. it provides estrogens to help rebuild vaginal tissue and make intercourse more comfortable.
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breathe right. and we're back. sitting here talking with our guests. ashley, i want to come to you because as we talked about at the beginning of the segment, there's been a lot of controversy about joe's book. and i understand you -- what do you have to say? what do you make of the controversy?
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>> you know, i'm kind of on the newer end of the revolution that has been happening and is still happening, but i think the book is a great step. i don't necessarily understand anybody who has a problem with the visibility because that's the point and the courageous story of the people in this book whom i'm sitting with, part of them, i just think it's something that's good to be heard, to get out there, to move forward together. >> what do you guys make of the controversy? i mean, this is your story in here. and to have, you know, people within the community fighting over what's in and what's not in this book must have some impact on you. >> it does. one of the things that happened in court, and this happened in front of chuck cooper, is that i testified to the fact that by having lived as an out lesbian and felt discriminated against, i felt like as a human being i had not been able to reach my full potential than if i had not lived in a state or a world where people like me were
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excluded from important institutions like marriage. i might have become someone entirely different and i might have been able to be a more productive and happy person. and what was really important for me when i read the book and for the first time read what chuck cooper was thinking and what he was saying to his wife at home. we had no idea that it had impacted him at all. and what i remembered thinking when i finally saw that was the whole point for sandy and i to be plaintiffs in this case was to speak directly to chuck cooper and other parents like him. that if you find yourself in a situation where you have a gay or lesbian child, you must accept and embrace them. that is the point of all this. it wasn't to speak to our side. it wasn't to speak to the lbgt community. it was for people who are unclear about why this is important for families. when those kids come out, they have to have a place to go and it has to be home, it has to be safe there. and their friend's hopes.
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>> what an amazing thing, you know? chuck told me that he was watching your wedding on tv and he said at a deeply personal level he couldn't help but rejoice in their happiness. i really do think that's why this country is changing, because people get to know someone that's their friend or -- plaintiffs in a case that you've spent 4 1/2 years on. and you get to know them and you want for them what you have for yourself. i think that's why you have seen the needle move so much on this issue. >> the needle has moved a lot. are you amazed at just how quickly public opinion has changed on the issue of marriage equality? >> from the start of all this five years ago when you started down this road, we had two states. now we're 18 i believe. >> 17. >> 17 and counting. >> district of columbia. >> yeah. i think it's really picking up steam. i think we're getting a really positive reaction. >> i think when the public sees that there is no harm to them, to their families, to their
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communities, by having us join in the privilege and the honor of being married, it's all about family. and the more we can get that information out, the more we can use joe's book and anybody's book, articles, everybody's, messages are important in changing the hearts and minds of americans. we've come a long way. it's thanks to so many who came before us that we are here today, enjoying the privilege we have. there's a lot of work to be done yet. we hope that all the advocates keep going. >> where cleave jones who was the creator of the aids quilt takes me to city hall to show me where harvey mill -- >> in san francisco. >> yeah, exactly. there's a bust of harvey. we had just left the day of testimony and he went up to the thing and he padded the bust, the bronze head, and he goes, harvey, you can't believe what's going on down the street, meaning the federal courthouse. >> fantastic. thank you, joe becker, ashley, chris and sandy steer.
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that is our show today. thanks to you at home for watching. i'll see you tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. eastern. we'll be joined by dr. willie parker. this is a man whose story you need to hear. he works at the only remaining abortion clinic in the state of mississippi, a clinic that could be soon shut down pending the outcome of a federal appeals court hearing this monday. this mississippi story is part of a nationwide trend to create so much legislation that women no longer have control over their own bodies. i hope you'll come back tomorrow to hear from dr. parker. now, it's time for a preview of weekends with alex wit. >> that sounds like a great show, definitely tuning in. expected to be indicted. federal prosecutors reportedly closing in on new york congressman ryan grim after an exhaustive two-year investigation. backing away from bundy. with the nevada rancher proving to be politically toxic for republicans, what happens next in the standoff over $1 million in unpaid grazing fees? the debate.
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the fda weighs in for the first time on electronic cigarettes but are the new rules more notable for what they don't do? and chris hayes unplugged from father hood to the gop strategy on health care. >> i think they are genuinely at a loss at this point. i think you're starting to see the turnaround. >> it's an all new office politics. step seven point two one two. verify and lock. command is locked. five seconds. three, two, one. standing by for capture. the most innovative software on the planet... dragon is captured. is connecting today's leading companies to places beyond it. siemens. answers.
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violent weather on the horizon. storms sweep through parts of the mid-atlantic. but more's on the way, so where's it headed? president obama on the next leg of his asia tour. an historic visit to a country with a missing plane still in the headlines. rand paul with a message to the gop. among his comments, this. >> you go to a republican event and it's all white people. >> you're going to hear what else he said as he tries to grow the republican party. and the latest drone strikes this week. did they hit some of al qas
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